Lockdown has been tough for everyone – there’s no hiding it! A local schoolboy decided to spend his lockdown making an environmental difference to Harrison Park, while in the midst of completing his Bronze level Duke of Edinburgh Award. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a young peoples awards programme founded in Windsor in 1956 by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, that has recently grown to be a prominent part of Outdoor Education in 144 countries and nations. A life-changing experience. A fun time with friends. An opportunity to discover new interests and talents. A tool to develop essential skills for life and work. A recognised mark of achievement; respected by both employers and Universities alike. DofE is a multitude of things to a multitude of people, but few candidates spend a National – in some aspects global – Lockdown fulfilling one of the requirements. Local Green Councillor Gavin Corbett agreed to be the assessor – writing reports and logging that the litter picking was going on, along with giving important safety advice – and has provided us with this article written by Alice Strang, the young boy’s mother.
“Who would have thought that the silver lining of lockdown would be litter picking? Yet that is what happened when my fourteen-year old son embarked on his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award this summer. This required him to undertake a volunteering activity for at least one hour a week for three months.”
“Limited to things he could do independently and close to home, we settled on litter picking in Harrison Parks East and West and along the canal towpath which runs beside them. Our local Green councillor, Gavin Corbett, immediately agreed to act as his assessor and explained some basic safety guidelines: wear gloves, use a litter picker and ask an adult to deal with anything sharp. A Merchiston Community Council litter picker was borrowed, gardening gloves were found and a roll of sturdy bin bags was bought. “
“My son insisted that I accompany him, so that if he was seen by any of his friends they would think I had made him do it! Our Saturday ‘litter hour’ soon became a highlight of my week. We re-discovered the parks of his early childhood where we had played on a virtually daily basis, since ousted by other activities. Our eyes soon became attuned to spotting crisp packets in flowerbeds, fizzy drink cans beside benches and wet wipes in the most secluded corners. We appreciated our neighbourhood’s natural surroundings as never before, despite our task, enjoying the rustle of the leaves of the canalside trees, the lush green of the park grass and the apples and brambles which grew as Summer turned into Autumn.”
“We kept a log of the number of bin bags filled on each outing, which ranged from a half to two, plus outsize items like a tent, a volleyball net and a huge piece of plywood! Most sessions yielded a surprise, from a collection of traffic cones to a dozen empty Corona beer bottles, stashed under a hedge. We were often thanked by other park users, who despaired at those who made our efforts necessary. The multiple ways in which these vital green spaces are enjoyed by the community, especially during lockdown, became clear. Dog walkers, young children toddling about, personal trainers with clients and senior citizens enjoying the sunshine from the comfort of a bench – they all proved the parks and towpath to be much used, greatly appreciated and beneficial to many.”
“As the required three months came to an end we realised that litter picking had given us a tangible sense of achievement. We felt we had helped the environment and contributed towards making our area a nicer place for everyone. However, the best bit for me was one-on-one time with my teenager. This ‘side-by-side’ activity encouraged flowing conversation of a sort rarely enjoyed at home. As a result, litter picking was the silver lining to my lockdown.”
Finally – a note from the Editor, Councillor, Parent, and Litter Picker. Please take your litter home!